Redefining the Baguio experience at the Sierra Pines Hotel
By Anjali Nandwani
I am often met with openmouthed stares whenever I tell my Manila-based friends that I have never been to Baguio. “Seriously?! But it’s a part of everyone’s childhood!” Having grown up in the province, Baguio was not part of my childhood – but I was eager to finally experience the famous cool weather and fresh pine tree smells Baguio is known for.
When I told my friends I was finally making the drive over to the Summer capital of the Philippines, they told me what to expect from a traditional Baguio experience. Visions of crowded streets, traffic, and staying in a hotel done in foreboding dark interiors danced around in my head.
With this in mind, I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at the Sierra Pines Hotel on Outlook Drive. The Sierra Pines is still in its infancy, having opened in February of this year. However, while it is still in its soft launch, I have to say I was quite impressed by the service of the staff and the uniqueness of the hotel itself. Situated strategically on Outlook Drive, it is a short walk away to Minesview Park, the Mansion, and The Good Shepherd Convent. A quick 5 minute drive will also take you to Camp John Hay.
As I enter the driveway I am greeted by a chorus of “Good afternoons” and friendly smiles. The front office staff is equally friendly as I take in my surroundings. The lobby is well-lit and is a far cry from the log cabin feel I was expecting. As I take the scenic elevator to my room I immediately notice the beautiful view of pine trees in the misty fog. The hotel has a unique open atrium concept that invites nature in. As I stepped into the hallway of my floor I noticed the fog creeping in just a bit. Unlike other hotels where you only interact with nature from behind a glass, staying at the Sierra Pines gave me the feeling that I was experiencing and interacting with the nature that Baguio is well known for.
My deluxe room had a comfy queen sized bed and all the amenities needed to make my stay comfortable. The light wood interiors coupled with a calm color palette gave the room a modern feel that was still homey and welcoming. My room had its own little balcony which I unfortunately didn’t get to explore as it was raining quite a bit during my overnight stay there.
After settling in and unpacking I headed down to meet Eds Relox, the assistant front office manager, for a quick tour of the hotel. Eds describes the vision of the hotel as “Redefining the Baguio Experience”. Their goal is to shy away from the traditional Baguio experience of staying in a forest lodge or log cabin. The only thing traditional about staying there is you are guaranteed the experience of traditional Filipino hospitality at its best.
As Eds explains, the hotel has 61 rooms. You have a choice between a Deluxe Room with a queen size bed, a Superior room with 2 single beds, or a family “loft-type” room which usually comes with a queen size bed on the first level and 2 single beds on the upper level. Each room has a balcony as you are encouraged to enjoy and experience nature during your stay. And in line with their nature-friendly vibe they’ve made sure that their hotel is eco-friendly as well. They have a raincatcher that sits above the atrium to filter rainwater for re-use in the hotel. Additionally, smoking is strictly prohibited in all areas of the hotel except the balconies.
Families make up the most of the Sierra Pines’ clientele and it is obvious that they cater to families with younger kids by the inclusion of a library/game room with a plethora of books and board games to keep youngsters entertained. While your children are occupied, take the time to check out another unique feature of the hotel that will appeal to the art-lover in you. The Sierra Pines has a National Artists Gallery which features paintings from famed artists such as Manansala, Magsaysay, and Amorsolo. The oldest painting in the gallery is a 1922 Amorsolo painting titled “Sunset by Manila Bay”.
As far as dining options go, they have 2 restaurants, of which the Atrium is certainly the big draw for visitors. Situated in a partially open area, you can have your meals while facing the pine trees often shrouded in fog, which often creeps in just at the edges of the restaurant. There is also a lovely koi pond that adds to the relaxed vibe of this dining area. On weekends, when the weather permits, the staff sets up a fire pit where they roast marshmallows and hotdogs and pass these out free to the children of the families that make up most of the clientele.
The other restaurant, the Outlook, is housed in an annex building and serves Western food, with its steaks being cooked sous-vide, which is a method of cooking that helps lock in moisture and cooks the food evenly. The annex building also houses a function room that can seat 70 people comfortably as well as a spa and a gym.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed my overnight stay here. The hotel itself was a unique sanctuary in the city of pines and the staff’s personalized service and friendliness were unmatched. The hotel certainly lived up to its promise of “Redefining the Baguio Experience”